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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  June 3, 2014 4:30am-8:01am EDT

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mr. barrasso: mr. president, today the obama administration released its new plan intended to shut down american power plants. instead of celebrating his policies in the rose ga garden, president obama relegated the bad news to the environmental protection agency. make no mistake about it, what they are announcing today is another step in the president's plan to make electricity rates -- quote -- "necessarily skyrocket." unquote. remember, mr. president, that's what the president promised americans when he was running for president the first time, 2008. now, of course, when he was elected, congress said no. no to his radical plan. even when the democrats controlled the house of representatives, nancy pelosi was speaker of the house, the democrats had 60 members of the senate, even with a complete democratic domination in both
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houses of congress, congress still said, no, mr. president, this is a bad idea. so the president decided that he knew better than the american people, the elected representatives, he decided to go around congress and go around the american people. so i turned to the front page of today's "wyoming front page eagle hrert, cheyenne wyoming," and the headline is obama lets the administration do his dirty work. the subheadlines, the president's charge to limit emissions has caused so much criticism that he is no longer leading the pack. they go on to say on the front page of the wyoming tribune eagle when the obama administration unveils its program to curb power plant emissions, this cornerstone of the president's climate change policy, the most significant environmental regulation of his term, will not be declared in a sunbathed rose garden news
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conference or even from behind the lectern in a major speech. they go on to say it will not be announced by the president at all, but instead by his head of the e.p.a., the environmental protection agency, while president obama adds his comments in an off-camera conference call. talk about something that's unpopular with the american people, it's this. about a year ago the president put out rules limiting carbon dioxide emission s from new power plants, power plants that were being constructed. but today, today his environmental protection agency is applying tight new limits on the emissions of existing power plants, power plants that are already there producing energy. the administration said it's going to allow states, they describe flexibility in how they
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meet the new limits. well, i believe that any of the flexibility that's being offered is just an illusion. states will have a severely limited number of options for what they can do to meet the standards. every one of those options are going to raise the cost of energy for american families. that means consumers won't even get the illusion of flexibility. they'll get higher energy costs. now, businesses are going to have to find ways to pay for their own higher bills because it's not just going to be families when they turn on the light switch that are going to get a higher electric bill. as the president said electricity rates will necessarily skyrocket. but businesses are going to have to find ways to pay for their higher energy costs, which will mean higher and fewer people laying people off passing on the cost to others. that is why the u.s. chamber of commerce says that an aggressive policy targeting coal-fired power plants will lead to higher, less disposable incomes
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for families. and thousands of jobs lost. so, families will have less disposable income, thousands of jobs lost. we just learned last week our economy shrank by 1% in the last quarter. the united states economy shrank. this is the first time in years the economy actually shrank by 1% in the last quarter. the first time it happened since 2011. our labor force participation rate was at the same level it was when jimmy carter was president of the united states. now the obama administration wants to put more americans out of work. the action that they are taking today is the height of irresponsibility and, really, mr. president, it tone-deaf leadership. the obama administration is going to try to defend their extreme regulations by saying once again that these changes will help save lives and keep families healthy.
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the fact is that they're totally ignoring the undeniable fact that when americans lose their jobs, their health and health of their children suffers. there's an enormous public health threat from high unemployment, specifically chronic high unemployment. it increases the likelihood of hospital visits, illness and premature death. it hurts children's health and the well-being of families. it influences mental illness, suicide, alcohol abuse, spouse abuse. it's an important risk factor in stroke and high blood pressure and heart disease. major things that impact a family, raise the cost of care. i saw it in my days of medical training and medical practice. and the white house knows it too. you say how does the white house know? "the new york times" actually ran an article on this in november of 2011. november 17, to be exact. the headline of the article was "policy and politics collide as
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obama enters campaign mode." "policy and politics collide as obama enters campaign mode." the article says a meeting occurred in the white house between the american lung association and white house chief of staff william daley. and the meeting was about the environmental protection agency's proposed ozone regulations. in that white house meeting, white house chief of staff daley asked a simple question when confronted with the argument that additional clean air act regulations would improve public health. daley asks what are the health impacts of unemployment? i have just gone over them with you, mr. president. those are the health impacts of unemployment. so the white house knows about it, totally aware about it. so when the environmental protection agency announced these new rules today, the president himself was reportedly talking off camera, conference
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call, on the phone with the american lung association. someone in that room should be talking about the disastrous public health effects of the unemployment that these rules are causing. the fact is that more regulation from washington is not what america needs right now. states already have flexibility in how they approach environmental stewardship, and many of them have come up with creative solutions. last month the senate and congressional western caucuses issued a report called "washington gets it wrong: states get it right." the report showed how regulations imposed by washington are undermined -- undermining the work being done at the state level to manage our lands, to manage our natural resources, and to protect our air and our water. it gave success stories, discuss stories where the work being done -- success stories where the work being done by states is
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more reasonable, more effective and it's less heavy-handed than the rules ordered by washington. america doesn't need washington to pay lip service to flexibility while mandating huge price increases in energy. america wants washington to stop the overreaching regulations and the mandates and actually allow the states to get it right. thousands of americans who already lost their jobs because of washington's expensive and excessive regulations. now the president is putting more jobs on the chopping block. that's why i've written legislation that would stop president obama's massive increase in the nation's electric bill. i offered this as an amendment last fall. democrats in the senate blocked it. i plan to offer it again, and to keep making the point that the president should not have the power and authority to impose these burdens on the american economy and on american families. my amendment blocks the issuance
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of new carbon standards for new and existing power plants. it would actually require the approval of congress -- imagine that -- the approval of congress, the elected representatives of the people, require the approval of congress for regulations that increase america's energy bills like these new rules proposed by the obama administration today. congress should act on an affordable energy plan. but these kinds of decisions should for congress to make, not for the president to make on his own. it's true whether the president is a democrat or a republican. mr. president, we all know we need to make america's energy as clean as we can as fast as we can. it's critically important, though, that we do this without hurting our economy, a struggling economy, an economy where people continue to sacrifice, and do this in ways that don't cost hundreds of
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thousands of middle-class families their jobs. we should look to the states that have come up with ways to balance our energy needs, the health of our economy, and our environment. president obama is taking the wrong approach. these new regulations are going to hurt our economy. it's an economy that's already shrinking. it's astonishing, our economy is shrinking, and it's because of the president's other failed policies. the policies introduced today will hurt middle-class families who are struggling to find work or to keep the jobs that they have now. they will harm the health of many americans. the president needs to change course. and if he won't do it on his own, congress must do it for him. so today once again, mr. president, we see the headline "obama lets e.p.a. do his dirty work: the president's charge to limit emissions has
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caused him so much criticism that he is no longer leading the pack." instead he's hiding. the president today is hiding. if this is something the president was proud of, he should have been at the white house in the rose garden in front of the cameras making an announcement, not asking his e.p.a. administrator to make it so he could be on a conference call because he was ashamed to show his face to the american people because of the impact these regulations are going to have on families all across america. america.
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>> i want to express my appreciation for this discussion going on here. it's quite balanced and to me quite revealing. mr. levin, can you speak about states that have eliminated or reduced mandatory penalties, and
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their effect on the prime rate as the guilty plea right, the cooperation rate? >> yes. thank you very much. in fact, one of the examples in michigan which are probably familiar with, in 2000, eliminated their mandatory minimums including retroactively and then and the subsequent decade, property crime fell 24%, violent crime 13%. south carolina is another example in 2010 rolled back of their drug mandatory minimums. they saw crime dropped 14%. georgia recently -- drug court is one of the solutions that have a rollback drug sentencing laws about a year ago, the penalties on low-level drug possession and they seem crimes continue to decline in georgia. texas, we say we're tough and smart. for our drug possession cases
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just as an example if you one to four grams of drugs, your sins could be to 10 years, probation or prison. i think what we need to do is a heroin epidemic was mentioned, that is a scorched but for example, there's new intervention to literally block the receptors. so the heroin and it doesn't feel anything anymore. certainly those kingpins dealing large amounts of drugs will continue to get have the federal sentences. we are talking mandatory minimums that could be sentences about that. no one is talking but getting rid of any mandatory minimum, just recalibrating, expanding the safety valve. i think we're to keep in focus when you go back on the crack disparity, after that the average since his 97 months. at seven or eight years, a lot of incentive to cooperate with the prosecutor. have the prosecutor told the judge this guy is fully claw putting. 97% of cases played out. i don't buy when the penalties
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-- simply to convict a third party. we have to be focused on what sentence fits the crime before the court. >> thank you very much. so there's been an effect no increase in crime rates when we've reduced these penalties, and the plea rates in cooperation have gone on spent i think that's correct. i would also say the federal system is a very small percentage. there's over 2 million people locked up in the u.s., only 10% are in the federal system. i would argue some of the best things we can do to reduce crime are like policing, like a nuke city. we can deter crime by having police in the right places. so again, with the department of justice, we're getting to a we're getting to a point for close to a third of the budget is the federal prison system. we could be using those funds for prosecutors, or other
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strategies. >> is this from the state you are giving us this experience, state instead of federal? >> i was pointing out to you i think the crime rates are more tied to state policy because the vast majority of defendants are sentenced and incarcerated in state systems rather than the federal government. i think the federal government has a limited effect on the crime rate. >> and after crack reductions there was no increase in recidivism for those offenders either? >> yes. in fact in texas we have seen our crime rate lowest since 1960. we have closed three adult prisons. our recidivism rates have fallen dramatically. instead of building more prisons we took some of the money i put into strengthening probation, more drug courts, more treatment programs. i think the federal government can learn from that. >> let me ask my final question
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to mr. otis. the media chooses how to portray the face of crime. they can choose to paint the face of a criminal as someone of color. law enforcement decides which neighborhoods and crimes to focus on. and that means not all neighborhoods are targeted. you show me the man and i'll find you the crime. officers decide which cases are presented for prosecutors, and prosecutors frequently decide who is charged with mandatory penalties and who's not. are you saying that it is impossible for bias or unconscious or not to seek into
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our system -- to seep into our system? >> of course is not impossible for bias to get into the system, anyone would say that would be out of his mind. nor is it impossible for ideology or naïveté to creep in to judges decisions on what sentencing when they are not constrained by a mandatory minimum. i would cite for you expect -- a specific example, that being the corcory reingold case, the child pornography case in new york where a federal district judge imposed a sentence of 30 months on a defendant who did not merely possessed but had distributed child pornography. i'm not talking here just about nude pictures of teenager. i am talking about elementary school aged children in contorted poses that are not going to describe in a setting
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like this. the district judge was so influenced by his own personal opinion and so convinced that congress is mandatory minimum of five years was unfair, that he sentenced the defendant to 30 months. a unanimous panel with a majority of democratic appointed judges reversed him and the only reason that panel was unable to require the district judge to impose at least five years was that congress had had the wisdom to say for a crime like this you cannot go below that. >> professor otis, you sound more reasonable this morning than i could've had any right to expect, and i thank you for your -- >> i apologize. >> thank you. >> at this time we recognize the gentleman from alabama for five minutes. >> thank you. i noticed there was general agreement, we are to focus first
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on the kingpin, the organizer, and i think we would all agree maybe with mr. evenson, to do that you have to get cooperation, someone down the line. with that in mind, i want to ask you about the attorney general in august of last year directed the u.s. attorneys in the criminal division, and he was talking about title 21, a safety valve, how you could not charge if certain elements were there, and he said if these elements aren't there this is what you can -- you don't have to charge. one element that had existed before that was cooperation.
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but he dropped that one so you can deviate even though there's unwillingness to cooperate. so that's not even taking into consideration. were you aware, mr. evenson or mr. otis, that there was a change made? he also be elevated the number of points. >> congressman, i am aware of the august 2013 memo. a century prior to the time prosecutors were authorized to file what is called an 851 enhancement and every drug case. that is essentially every drug dealer is arrested and he has a prior drug felony conviction, a notice is filed with the court that basically doubles the minimum mandatory. that particular tool has been very effective in gaining cooperation. that's one of the tools that we use. now that tool has been greatly modified for assistant united
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states attorneys, and only in certain cases are we authorized to file that. also, there was in the memo that we are not to put drug quantities in the indictment which trigger the minimum mandatory. >> it gives criteria when you don't put them in there. you don't put them in, unless these things are present. >> in effect the minimum mandatory has been done away to a large extent by that memo. >> and cooperation used to be one of those things, but then i guess you still can't do what i'm saying, the safety valve, you know, according to this memo, even if they're not cooperating and they could come they could finger somebody, you still, that's not -- >> that was the one thing that was dropped. >> you are exactly correct. it's as if you have a dealer with not any real record and he
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tries to cooperate but doesn't come up to the level of substantial assistance, no violence, then the court can, underneath minimum mandatory. now that's not even necessary to cooperate. >> seems like that, it goes against that philosophy. >> just on that point, typically the charging decision is made before there's any opportunity to assess cooperation, and even though the in those cases, cooperation can still be considered -- >> i think if you make your decision before you charge, it's more effective the cooperation. because the kingpin doesn't know sometimes what's going on. >> the only point i would make is the range of sensing is still extremely broad, and i think the data would support that most cases are going to plea. >> i find it strange that the cooperation was the one that was totally dropped out, you know, to me -- let me ask one that is
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not in a good think out to be considered, and that's age of the offender. you know, nowhere in these guidelines doesn't talk about the age of the offender. and i think that's one of our biggest problems. and 18 or 19 year old is quite different from a 23 year-old. a 30 year old is tremendously different, his judgment, particularly -- i have five children, two girls and three boys and the boys mature a little later. i mean, you know, in most cases. i hope i don't hear about that. but, you know, i can say my 18 year old at 30, after four years in the marine corps had much better judgment. anybody want to comment on whether we ought to take that into consideration? >> yes, i will. i absolutely great and i think
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most states are actually moving in the direction where they are reintroducing age as an important factor, taken when you start talking about drug conspiracies. conspiracies. what these kingpins did is they look for young, little kids, some as young as 13 or 14 would have an enormous influence over them. right now judges and prosecutors don't have the discretion to consider the fact that this kid was brought in at 13 and 14 and stayed in for four or five years. i agree. the supreme court has issued a couple of decisions that i think would support this congress and task force in taking steps to wreck it is the importance of age when it comes to culpability and sentencing. sentencing. >> i will say most of the offenders that we charged were in their 20s. a juvenile in federal court is under 18. we have to get department approval for one example, we had one drug dealer who was involved with an organization in our district and we have to charge them with two murders.
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after we did the debriefing he does get committed for others. so he was 19. >> i'm not talking about murder but drug. a 21 year-old is just a different person when he is 30 in most cases. just almost two different people. in many cases. particularly if he hasn't had some of the supervision that others children do. >> thank you very much. at this time, mr. scott indicates he will still yield, and mr. jeffries from new york, you are recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chair, and i think the distinguished panel that is the. the force. i want to start with professor otis. criminal justice is largely the province of 50 states, is that correct? >> yes, it is. >> that's consistent of course with constitutional landscape
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and the fact that prevention of crime wasn't necessarily an enumerated power given to congress. it was left to the states, the tenth amendment. factors into the. and the majority of individuals who are incarcerated in this country right now are in the state penal system, correct? >> that is also correct. only about 217,000 are in the federal prisons. >> so the state experience is a relevant indicator of what could potentially happen if criminal justice reform occurs, correct? >> that is correct with the qualification. the qualification is one that i would build on, as an assistant u.s. attorney. the federal prison population is not like the state prison population. estates turned over to the fed the really tough, broad ranging conspiracies, and the kind of people you find in federal prisons are the ones that states
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didn't have the toughness or the resources or the sentencing system to deal with. >> that's interesting because about 50% of the federal prison population actually constitutes nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom did not have a prior criminal record or engaged in violent criminal activity prior to them being incarcerated in federal prison, is that correct? >> that is correct, yes. >> in fact about 10% of the prison population in the federal system actually are violent offenders. in fact, i think that's less than 10%, is that correct? >> that's correct. >> so the premise that the federal system is somewhat different in nature and is filled with kingpins and mafia lords and terrorists is just inconsistent with the facts, is that fair? >> yes. the uss simpson commission has made that point repeatedly.
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>> so i think it's clear there is no real difference between individuals in the state penal system and individuals in the federal penal system. and so i would argue that the majority of individuals are actually in the state penal system that the state penal system experience in terms of criminal justice reform is instructive. to me that seems like a reasonable premise. but, mr. levin, does that seem fair? >> i think it is. there are some differences in the composition but, frankly, those of us in over the years as more and more frankly low level street corner drug offenders into in the federal system. i would also say one other provisions of the smarter sensing act would so you could have to criminal history points instead of one and still be able to get the benefit of the city fell. in order to get the safety valve you have to cooperate so that would increase the incentive to cooperate. for more people because now you have the least to criminal history points you can't get the safety valve anyway.
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>> i appreciate that observation to 29 states have limited or restricted mandatory minimums. i would think based on some of the testament that we have heard today that that perhaps would have resulted in a crime wave being unleashed on the good people of america in those 29 states. how's that been the experience? >> no, it's not, and this was indicated some states have seen dramatic increases in the crime reduction after the passage of these reforms. >> mr. otis, or you've more with the rockefeller drug laws that were first put in place in the state in the 1970s? >> generally but not in specifics. >> it's understood these were some of the most restrictive, punitive drug laws anywhere in this country, correct? >> i would have to to defer to your. >> mr. stephenson? >> that is correct. >> he's -- these are some of the
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most toughest, draconian mandatory minimums related to nonviolent drug offenders. in 20,009 -- in 2009, dramatically reform is rockefeller drug laws. this happened in 2009. are you familiar with the? >> i am not. >> it it occurred. again, based on this premise i would assume in new york state that a dramatic crime wave as some argued would have occurred, as a result of reforms that took place would fall. is that what took place in the state, mr. otis, or did the crime continued to decline subsequent to the repeal of the rockefeller drug laws in new york, as has been the experience in every other state that has changed or reform this mandatory minimums? >> my answer is going to be long, but you have to forgive me
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i am a law professor. the answer is that, yes, in the states that have experimented in this way, crime has continued to decline, but that is because imprisonment and the use of imprisonment while a very significant, probably the most significant factor in the overall decrease in crime in this country in the last 20 years is only one factor. other factors are at work as well and those factors have been, have continued to be in play. other factors like hiring more police, better police trained, better privacy measures, better emt care to reduce the murder rate, for example. so while it is true that crime has continued to decrease, the decrease has been at a lower rate in the states in which, in which they tried to pick the best example is the dish my time has expired but let me make the observation, one of the reasons that states have been able to invest resources in those other areas that you enumerated is because when you reduce the
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prison population, you reduce the state budgetary burden and you can actually invest in things that have been empirically proven to lower crime. i yield back. >> thank you mr. jeffries. at this time we would move to the gentleman from north carolina, mr. holding is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. evenson, i would like for you to give us some real-life frontline context. first, to establish in your 20 plus years as a prosecutor, most of that as a drug prosecutor, how many drug defendants do you think you have prosecuted and have been prosecuted under your supervision? just a general number. >> i had my own caseload while i was supervising a drug unit.
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i would say i've done hundreds myself over that period of time, but we have done over the years thousands. and we specifically went after the biggest organizations by using the techniques i described earlier. >> so in the thousands of drug defendants that you have personally dealt with, how many of those were low-level nonviolent drug offenders? >> well let me just say this. i hear the term of nonviolent thrown around -- >> is trafficking in drugs a violent crime? >> it is by it -- its very nature. you show me a city with a violence problem and i will show you an underlying drug trafficking problem. with drugs comes guns and violence. it's the nature of the game. they don't take their problems to court. they enforce it at the end of a
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gun. and any shares in my district, they would tell me, because i knew them all, i had 44 counties, their biggest problem with drugs and drug-related crime. that's what they were focused on. if they could get that problem solved. so i don't accept the term nonviolence when it comes to drugs. these organizations are by their nature -- >> but drug trafficking is a crime of violence. >> it is. and i just kind of say this right now, i have an opportunity, law enforcement does not have a war on drugs. we have a war on drug traffickers. we seize the drugs and we arrest traffickers. that's our mission. and we represent many of these people in these poor communities of color who are victimized by that. >> i want you to focus in on another member of the task force pointed out that law enforcement, prosecutors can
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choose the communities in which they going to and look for crime and prosecute crime. talk about some of those communities that you've been a part of going into in trying to eradicate drug trafficking. >> i was asked the question. one example, we had a community where a drug dealer had been selling for years. he had a fence around his yard. he had a high dollar vehicle. he had for them. he had built an addition on his house. and there was a photo of one of my agents driving one of these high to vehicles out of his driveway and he said, do you see that picture? i suggest. he said you know what happened when i drove it down the street? no. he said the neighborhood would come out on the street and they were clapping. this was a bad, violent drug dealer. that's the kind of people that we represent. >> that's when the agent drove when the agent go down the straight? >> he took the corvette out of the driveway and h he said right as it turned and went down the street they were lined up
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clapping. and you know, we represent some of the most vulnerable people, the poor, the elderly, the young, the addicted. they have no voice. they have no way to sell their home and move away when a drug dealer sets up shop in a neighborhood the property values drop. so quite frankly i am personally offended when i hear charges of racism. the laws are race-neutral. we go where the battle is hot as. we represent people are victimized i this activity. it doesn't make any difference what neighborhood it is. i've never prosecuted anybody on the basis of race, and neither has any ausa. the department of justice does not prosecute anybody on the basis of race. would go on what evidence allegis and that's where ago. >> thank you. mr. chairman, i will yield back. >> at this time the chair recognizes the gentleman from tennessee for five minutes.
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>> thank you. i appreciate the opportunity. i apologize for being late. had a couple post midnight sessions, whatever. i walked in, mr. evenson, do you say something to was incredulous. that there was not a war on drugs, you said there was a drug -- a war on drug dealers. >> i did say that. >> you said the laws are race-neutral. >> yes, sir, they are. >> nobody denies the fact that laws are race-neutral but the fact is that the indentation of the laws is not race-neutral and it is racial profiling. look, all laws are race-neutral, since 1865, except for the south, 1963, then they were not race-neutral. but the invitation by people under color of law who arrested eight times more african-americans for possession of marijuana than whites is not race-neutral. is that not a reality?
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>> congressman, i understand there's a lot statistics being thrown around, but -- >> like 99% of the people. we'll go back to the statistics. >> i cannot argue the statistics. all i can tell you is on a daily basis idea with drug agents that are black, white, indian. i have drug dealers that are black, white, indians interdistrict. we have prosecuted wherever the evidence led us. >> i don't deny you prosecuting but i'm saying a list -- arrest. >> engine from patrol is unable to stop this problem but it has to be investigated. they can't do anything in uniform patrol. they just pick a person with possession and it ends there. >> do you believe marijuana is less dangerous to our society than math, cocaine, heroin? >> the laws indicate that. >> the laws don't indicate that. that law does not indicate.
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spent in a courtroom it is critical that. methamphetamine is addicted. >> i agree. you might be best in the courtroom, i don't know but i hope you're. you're right company to go after the meth and heroin and crack cocaine. >> we do that. >> about marijuana? >> summon most violent marijuana, summon most violent dealers that i've experienced were marijuana growers. >> because it's illegal and their violent when the police command for the dea to try to bus them. it's not that they are, like violent and say. they -- >> i have been threatened by marijuana growers spent if it was legal do you think they would threaten you? they threaten you because it is illegal. >> that's a different question. i'm just telling you my experience. >> when alcohol was illegal, al capone and all those guys, they
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were bad guys. but now they are wholesalers, they are nice guys. you know, it just depends on how you flip it. did you think that, your support mandatory minimums standards because we need those. >> do you think they are a mistake sometimes we judge tells so many times that there are situations where they didn't want the census, maybe when the third event triggered or something with some minor think whether some nice woman that was involved with a man who led her astray, like ms. smith who wrote a book, she served six and half years and got commuted by president clinton. she's a wonderful woman, her son is the washington elite, six and a half years. >> congressman, as long as we human beings there will be mistakes but i can tell you that our system now is so regulated
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with, from the time they appear before a magistrate to a federal judge to the appeal process, that every case is scrutinized. i would see those kinds of cases are rare. every defendant is given a chance, in my experience, to provide assistance so that i can go to bat and -- >> he was provide assistance. and the guy the letter into it was out in northwest washington state and he was murdered so she can provide assistance anymore so they put her in jail and they put in prison for a long time. if it weren't for president clinton she might still be there. as you can provide assistance doesn't make your incarceration more just. >> there's an old saying in law school that hard cases make bad law. right now the law works. it's working to remove a lot of drug organizations in america. >> well, how do you think the experiment in colorado and washington is going? >> i don't know. >> mr. stephenson, you want to add anything? >> i want to emphasize that
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these exceptions, these extreme that cases, i think should not inform what this committee, task force does. we have a lot of data to tell us how to look at the system. and the truth of it is, communities of color are not celebrating mandatory minimums. i think we really need to be sober about the impact of these laws on global populations. i'm not suggesting individual officers go out with racist intent. there's a real difference in how easy it is to prosecute people in communities where you have to your drug dealing on the streets as opposed to communities where you have the resources to do it covertly. i think if we don't acknowledge that we will contribute to this problem of extreme racial disparity. the other point, i think you are right to emphasize that the way in which our system identifies it was bad, who is violent, it's going to be shaped by the way recharacterize these laws but if we eliminate mandatory minimums it will not in my judgment eliminate or even restrict our ability to go after bad kingpins.
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we can still do that. nobody is talking shielding drug dealers or drug traffickers from arrest and prosecution. we are talking about protecting people are sometimes caught in the web and sometimes end up with these very unjust census. >> thank you. i yield back. >> most bank robbers aren't violent and less you try to stop them. >> the chair will recognize himself for five minutes. thank you. really appreciate the level of commitment here. obviously, we've got people who are quite the mother with the system. i'm also pleased that we have such an experienced group on this task force. people that have dealt with the law in so many respects. having been a state judge and a chief justice at a state court of appeals, we use different terminology. and so, here's an immediate
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adverse reaction to mandatory minimums. in the state we call it a range of punishment, and it seemed perfectly appropriate for the legislature to say, you know, for these crimes, and i was a -- it was a felony court, this was the minimum, zero to two years, two years to 10 years for a third degree, but you at the bottom level. in first degree, five to 99 our life, and then, of course, if you enhanced it up to prior convictions, then you could, i think there's a guy arrested for stealing a snickers at one point and that runs into strange facts when you've got a guy looking at maybe a mandatory 25 years, because of the enhancements. it seems like we could deal with the areas in which there are
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great injustices without totally eliminating floors, although most judges i know would be fair and try to act fairly within a proper range. i'm old enough to remember before the sentencing guidelines back when federal judges actually got mad that they were having discretion taken away. i was shocked when i started having more federal judges say, no, we kind of like it, we don't have to make such a tough decisions. the sentencing guidelines tell us what we want to do. but, mr. evenson, i cut you off twice when you were, seem to be ready to proceed further. and i've got time. anything that you are wishing to illustrate that you didn't have time to do early?
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>> thank you, your honor. i just want to emphasize on behalf of the over 5000 assistant united states attorneys, that i read the comments that they provided on this legislation. we had a survey, and i read it again this morning. and if you could hear and see the statements, i think you would be amazed at how profound reducing the minimum mandatory is would be on our ability to do our job. we will not be able to go after the biggest drug dealers and less we have witnesses. and as i said that this is a hard business we are in. we need the inducement to allow conspirators to testify, and they do that. they have to make a decision. it's a go or no go situation.
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they are there with her lawyer and they decide my drug days are over, we build a rapport with them and they tell us everybody that they've been getting the drugs from and they are willing to testify. oftentimes they don't have to testify but they are told we don't care what you tell us of long as you tell us the truth. and most of them do. those that don't go off to prison. i had a lawyer tell me one time, he said, do you know who's in federal prison? those who cooperated and those who wished they had cooperated. those are the two people in federal prison. we need the ability to negotiate. and the sentences are fair but we are not prosecuting users. we are not prosecuting marijuana users. it's a myth. where prosecuting people for the most part who have prior convictions and are dealing in significant quantities over a long period of time. that's why we have conspiracies that run one, two, three and five years. that was the thing that amazed me when i went to federal court. you could charge somebody with
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an agreement that lasted that long period of time, but the jury gets to see the whole story them. it's not just a search on a drug house. so that would be our statement, congressman. i appreciate the time. >> anybody else wish to comment on mr. evenson's reflections? >> thank you. i have two comments. one is, i apologize for interrupting when you had your chance. one of the things we need to do is go by our experience. mr. levin has pointed out there has been at the expense of 15 or 16 or 17 cities over the last few years have reduced or eliminated mandatory minimum sentences and have not seen an upsurge in crime. i would point out two things. he omitted talking about california, which has had as many premature prison releases
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as the rest of the states combined. the reason for that is california is acting under the supreme court decision that required early releases in order to reduce the prison population to make prison conditions constitutional. what has happened in california, again which is have that, many previous -- the crime has gone up by that is not accounted for the other thing i would say is we can look beyond the experience of 17 states over the two years and look at experience the 50 states over 50 years. we know what works and we know what fails. what fails is what we had in the 1960s and '70s when we had an unmolested believe in rehabilitation and not really a believe in incarceration. that failed. what works is what we've done for the last -- >> my time is will expire. but the recognize the gentleman from virginia. >> category to respond? with regard to government ugly the reason they got in this
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situation is policymakers failed proactively. that's so we've been working with legislators around the country to address prison crowding in a prospect of way anyway through temperate process they don't invite federal court supervision. so i think california illustrates why we need to tackle this federal prison overcrowding issue up front rather than leaving it to supreme court or other judges. i would also say one of the reasons i think we have seen experience with the rockefeller drug laws as you mentioned, with the drug reform and south carolina and other states not leading to an increase in crime, the research has shown staying longer in prison does not reduce recidivism. if we can correct that habit and get them into productive law-abiding role as a citizen, clicking through appropriate supervision after release which are not investing in, i think
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then we can continue to drive down the crime rate in this country. >> thank you. at this time a recognize mr. scott for five minutes. >> thank you and i think all of our witnesses. mr. stevens, you indicated penalties did not affect drug use but is there any evidence that the five year mandatory minimum for small amounts of crack when they had the 100 to one disparity, and coach people to instead use powder where they could have 100 times more powder, is any indication that people would say i'm not going to use crack, i'm going to use powder? >> no. i think anyone who's worked with by bush and knows that phrase out of their driven by an addiction, buy a disorder that is actually shaping their choices. they are not worried about tomorrow or the next week but most of them couldn't even tell you what the penalties are. i think until we recognize that we will be misdirecting a lot of our resources. >> and if your goal is to reduce drug use, you mentioned a public health approach --
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>> no question. a lot of countries have actually invested in interventions, and many states have also used drug courts where they authorize treatment and supervision to i just want to emphasize the point about supervision which has proved to be very effective. if you spend $50,000 a year to keep someone in prison, that money doesn't accomplish very much. if you spend $10,000 a year to take somebody who has just been released from prison and make sure they are complying with very strict guidelines around treatment and services, allowing them to move forward to get a job, et cetera, not only are you spending less money on that person, you are dramatic increase in the chance that they are not going to recidivate will continue to be a drug user. we have lots of data from lots of places to talk about these approaches that radically reduce drug addiction and approve the health of these committees. i'm very sensitive to keep and use data drug addiction and drug abuse. interventions that are run health care models are the interventions that have had the
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biggest impact on the health of those places. >> i understand your organization right on crime takes a position that there are more cost-effective ways of reducing crime than waiting for people to get arrested and get into a bidding war as to how much time they're going to serve your have you seen the research that incarceration rate over 500 per 100,000 are counterproductive speak with yes. they cases, you reach a point of diminishing returns. you were sweeping into many nonviolent and low risk offenders and people are serving longer than necessary. >> let me ask you a question on that point been. if anything over 500 per 100,000 is counterproductive, and can stay to blocking of african-americans at the rate of 4000 per 100,000, with that kind of like the brady reduce the 500 at which you start getting any kind of return, you have 3500
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fewer people in prison at say 20,000 each, that's $70 million. are you suggesting that that committee could actually reduce crime more by spending that $70 million productively in a public health model, education, afterschool program, getting young people on the right track, keeping them on the right track than they could just locking up 3500 extra people? >> well, i think it's difficult to look at kind of a setting arbitrary rates are cut off. states have different crime rates and so forth. but i would say that certainly, once you do -- a professor who has looked at it, and one of the biggest backers of increasing incarceration a few decades ago and what they said is we reached a point of diminishing returns and, in fact, potentially in some places negative returns but you could be using that money to
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put in a place office on the street. where they're actually able to deter crime through a greater presence of officers in the right places, targeting those hotspots. i think that as you said can we talk about problem-solving courts, and whole range of other approaches, electronic monitoring and so forth. so i think that we really can without necessary getting into arbitrate attacks, what we've seen is because so much of the money, 90% of state correction by just a going to prison, the resources are not therefore these alternatives. it's a matter of realizing our budgetary priorities and making sure people don't go to prisons because we haven't provided the alternatives. >> we've heard that we need these bizarre sentences to fight the war on drugs. how is imposing sentences that violate common sense helpful to the war on drugs? >> well i think as you said, half of a high school students have tried illegal drugs.
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we've got to their broader approach that looks at prevention, delicate substance abuse treatment whether i made advances being made. i think that certainly we know that undoubtedly drug dealers replace one another, so simply, the problem is too broad to solve it just by taking what is a small number of the time people dealing drugs, putting them in prison for incredibly long census. as we said, these people are still going to go to prison, 97 months on a crack a case, even after the disparity was near. we are just talking about -- >> so if he says he can do with these people, these people are not, he makes it sound like he doesn't have any leverage over the people. these people are going to jail, just not on this our senses. they would be going to jail unfair sentences. >> the last year, giving us that much mileage relative to what else we could be doing with those resources. >> thank you.
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>> let me just comment, and we have submitted chairman sensenbrenner's statement for the record. he does point out things in which i would hope we would all agree that this task force has taken up rather unusual to see aclu, heritage foundation, liberal and conservative groups joining together, but we have a lot of agreement with regard to issues of mens rea is requirement for offenses. it was mentioned earlier, we really should have these codified into one code instead of having four to 500 to 5000 federal crimes where a prison sentence was added to the to show congress was tough on some issues we made it was a clerical error and it should have gone that route.
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there are many things that we agree on that we really need to deal with, and we really appreciate all of your input on this issue of mandatory minimums, what i might call a range of punishment. and you may have other thoughts as you leave, i know i always do. gee, i wish i'd said that this, that, or the other, and so if you wish to have -- we provide members five legislative days to submit additional written questions for the witnesses or additional materials for the record, but -- >> let me just say, if you have additional information that you think of as you walk out, i wish i'd said that, we would welcome that being submitted in writing for our review, and it will certainly be reviewed. >> i ask unanimous consent that letters and testimony from the
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u.s. sentencing commission, justice strategies, families against mandatory minimums, the leadership conference on civil rights, civil and human rights, the brennan center for justice, the judicial conference that often reminds us that judges are often required to impose sentences and violate common sense, the human rights watch, the aclu and the sentencing project, article from the hill all be entered into the record. >> without objection that will be done. and again, if you have additional materials, any of you, that you feel would be helpful to this task force, we would welcome those and that record will be open for five days spent if i could just ask one for the question? would you mind? >> without objection. >> thank you but i'm just guessing, mr. otis, i think of the most experience here. you may be the only person here older than me. 1960 is when you graduated?
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>> you look younger than me spent more and more people do these days. >> you been doing this for a long time and you were at dea. if i'm wrong, in my opinion, tell me. from what i see, the drug war over all those years hasn't changed at all as far as the american appetite for drugs, american appetite for marijuana, for crack, cocaine, meth, ecstasy, oxycontin, whatever. and our process has been the same, arrest people, mandatory minimums, flip them, put them in jail. it hasn't worked. is the system isn't in the same place it's been? do you feel like a rat going along in a cylinder? do you think we are to come out of it and go, this hasn't -- 40 years, but we need a new theory, a new way to do this? >> what the statistics show is the drug crimes are intimately related with other kinds of
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crimes, with property crimes, crimes of violence. and we know from the statistics that those crimes have gone down substantially. so don't think it's correct to say that it hasn't worked. in addition to that in order to know whether specifically drug laws have worked, we would need to know what the state of the would be if they had not been enforced. the great likelihood, because the drug since i think has been misapprehended in some of what's going on today. the drug business unlike other kinds of crime, the drug business is consensual. so there is not a crime scene and the victim in the same sense that there is in other kinds of crime. we've talked a lot today, and you've talked, and correctly so about violence and whether we've seen an increase or a decrease in violence when some states have released drug defendants early. but the violence is not the only thing we need to care about when we're talking about drugs. we need to care also about
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harmfulness. because the drug business is consensual, for example, the actor philip seymour hoffman recently died of an overdose, he died as result of a consensual drug transaction, as almost all drug transactions are. he and the other 13,000 heroin addicts who die each year are equally dead, whether it's consensual or whether there's been violence. we need to stomp out the harm that comes from the drug trade, a harm that is one of the most destructive, particularly minority committees that's going on in the united states today. >> would you mind if i added one thing? >> it's up to the chairman. >> with regard to everyone there's been since 1990, the purity has gone up 60%. the price has dropped 81%. so it does indicate what we're doing with regard to heroin is tragically not working, and i think obviously those,
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particularly kingpins didn't with heroin and other hard drugs should go to prison. but what we needed to go -- take a broader approach good for our pharmaceutical advances that are treating her with addiction and also recognize prescription drugs even with the increase in heroin abuse, it is far more common. so i hope we can also focus on that as well. >> thank you. i think what i got out of that is what we need to do, qb lewis probably has the answer to we need to find a drug that's not addictive and harmful but still pleasurable. we need to put nih to work on that tomorrow. >> i always thought that was what we called glazed doughnuts. [laughter] mr. bachus, you ask unanimous consent? >> thank you. unanimous consent, and professor otis, sort of reminded me of this. i have it but this is a crime
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scene, and this is in alabama. these are two young people who overdosed on a synthetic drug earlier this year. so it is a different crime scene, but it looks pretty violent. i'm sure to their parents. and their friends. i'd also like to introduce a -- >> are you offering that? >> yes. >> without objection. >> i would also like to introduce a copy of the attorney general's memorandum, the u.s. attorneys, and particularly highlighted was the cooperation is no longer included. but third, you know, mr. stephenson said something that i think we need to at least have one panel of people, and that's health care approach and
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things that we can do, and drug diversion, treatment, eviction, addressing it both as a criminal problem and the health care problem. and i would think the u.s. attorneys would probably welcome that more than any one group, because i've had u.s. attorneys and district attorneys expressed to me that they wish more was done on addiction because they are the ones that really see it every day. >> mr. chairman, i want to just make it clear that i think we share a common goal of reducing drug use in america. the question is what the strategy will be. mr. levitt and mr. stephenson have pointed out that there is a better cost, more cost-effective way of actually reducing drug use in america.
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others have suggested the war on drugs is working. i think the war on drugs has been shown to be a complete failure. it is wasted money. it has not reduced drugs, and the more cost-effective ways of doing it. that's what the debate is all about. >> thank you, and you are right. we all agree on that, that we want to reduce the usage of drugs. and there have been data provided that indicates in some ways it is working. to explain to each of you, we had anticipated having to go vote around 10 a.m. so we started out under that, that so we were told by the mortal gods from the house floor. we were proceeding we got word that the vote that we were told to anticipate around 10 was voice voted, thankfully, some core operation on the floor and that allowed us to finish without interrupting you taking
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more time than necessary but so would you thank you and with that we are adjourned. [inaudible conversations] >> [inaudible conversations]
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>> up next on c-span2, a house veterans affairs hearing challenges faces -- challenges facing visual impaired veterans. the senate is back at 10 a.m. eastern. live senate coverage on c-span2. >> in april, the supreme court ruled that the limits on individual contributions during an election cycle is an unconstitutional violation of first amendment free speech rights. this morning, senate majority leader harry reid and minority leader mitch mcconnell will testify before the senate judiciary committee about the court's decision. live coverage at 10:30 a.m. eastern on c-span. later in the day a look at the result of the european parliament elections in may.
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we'll hear from the ambassadors to the u.s. and the international monetary fund officials. live coverage on the brookings institution begins at 2:15 p.m. eastern also on c-span. >> c-span to new book "sundays at eight" includes financial journalist michael lewis. >> we are living through a really dramatic period. it is not only sort of the beginning rather than the end. there are real problems. yes, we'll be living -- i mean, i'm not an economic forecaster but everything i've read suggests we'll be living with unusually high levels of unemployment, a lot of pain from over indebtedness. the core of the control beyond food stems. i saw it on tv. it's not a great depression. we are not repricing except what happened in the '30s but it's a version of the. >> read more with michael lewis
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and other featured interviews from our book notes and q&a programs and c-span's "sundays at eight" from public affairs books now of able for a father's day gift at your favorite bookseller. >> next, hearing on challenges facing visual impaired veterans. and iraq war veteran who became legally blind testified about his va center doctor not having his correct medical information. this house veterans affairs subcommittee hearing is two hours. >> good morning. assuring will come to order. i want to welcome everybody to today's hearing titled assessing and adequacies in va data usage for and services provided to visually-impaired veterans. my name is mike coffman, and prior to hearing testimony and asking questions to our
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witnesses, i ask that each member state his or her name to assist our witnesses and identifying who is speaking. thank you for your cooperation. now let us begin. this hearing focuses on continued problems with in va that is caused its contribution to the vision center of excellence to stagnate, allow these systems to continue to operate in noncompliance with section 508 of the americans with disabilities act, and compromise other services provided to veterans with visual impairment. the creation of the vision center of excellence, or vce, as we were refer to it today, was mandated by the national defense authorization act of fy 2008. it's state of the department of defense was required to create
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the facility and to collaborate with the department of veterans affairs in doing so. one of the main responsibilities required in the 2008 ndaa for the operation of the vce was to, quote, enable the secretary of veterans affairs to assess the registry and add information pertaining to additional treatments of surgical procedures and eventually visual outcomes for veterans who were injured into the registry and subsequently received treatment due to the veterans health administration. ..

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